Welcome back to my “Tales of the Darkside” Marathon! Have you ever looked at an old, decrepit house and wondered what secrets might lie inside? Or perhaps you’ve lived somewhere that had crazy stories about the previous owner? Well, today’s tale involves a hidden room and the horrific story behind it. This is “Madness Room.”
Edward and Cathy Osborne are a married couple who live in an old house formally owned by a man named Benjamin Fairchild. One night, they are visited by Edward’s young lawyer, Michael, and the three engage in Cathy’s hobby of playing with an Ouija board. She insists they can contact Benjamin through it, and after she proves this, the three soon learn of the existence of the madness room. According to Cathy, the room drives anyone who stays in it insane, including Benjamin’s wife, Ophelia. It drove her to kill her husband and drown their baby in a well outside. Despite this gruesome story, the three decide to find the madness room and see if the tales are true. But if they succeed and find this hidden secret, will the madness get to them as well?
I wasn’t sure what to make of this one when it started. The first lines out of Edward’s mouth were corny and kinda clunky, Cathy often put extra emphasis on her words, and once the Ouija board comes into play, Michael immediately takes it in stride. Adding to those things, around half of the episode is spent with them figuring things out through the Ouija board before they go off to search for the room. I didn’t think any of the acting was all that special, though Edward and Michael were mostly tolerable. Cathy, on the other hand, drove me crazy (no pun intended) with her performance. Ironically, the only time I didn’t mind her emphasizing words was when she spoke the Ouija phrases.
So, with all that in mind, it must look like I disliked the episode. But as it continued and reached its climatic twist, I found that the episode redeemed itself. Cathy’s acting seemed to get even more hammy and annoying as the story progressed, but there’s actually a reason for it. If you’ve read about or seen a few episodes I covered from the “Twilight Zone” and especially “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” there are a few stories that ultimately end in a similar fashion to this one. I’ll just say this: there is more than one twist here, and by the time the first one occurs, you can pretty much guess where the story’s going from there. The episode even addresses at least one of my complaints and ties it back into the twist. While I feel I should’ve seen the initial twist coming long before it did (it’s pretty much foreshadowed early on), my only excuse for why I didn’t is due to staying up late to watch this one. I’m sure most people would catch on as it’s pretty predictable, but I’ll admit I was in the dark up until the split second before it was revealed.
I honestly don’t have much else to say about this one without giving away spoilers. What I WILL say is one of my favorite parts ended up being the backstory for Benjamin and his wife. It only gets a brief mention, yes, but it’s just so tragic and creepy when you think about it. As for pacing, the episode’s a slow burn starting out, as the plot doesn’t really kick in until the moment the Ouija board is brought out. The fact that the bulk of it took place in the living room could also be why the pacing felt a little slow. Oh, and minor nitpick here, but Michael is first shown wearing some huge prescription glasses. For the rest of the episode, though, he’s seen without them. Not sure why that is, but it’s just something I picked up on.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by “Madness Room.” I was all set to write it off as being mediocre, but the ending painted the rest of the episode in a new light and made me enjoy it more as a result. It’s far from perfect, and I’ve definitely seen better renditions of this kind of story, but it still held my attention just enough throughout to make me want to see it through to the end.